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Major Things That Failed To Happen In 2013 

By Bouddih Adams — The year 2013 was a busy political year but a lazy one for democracy. Given the introduction of the biometric system, the Cameroonian people thought the Senatorial elections in April and the Parliamentary and Municipal elections in September would be transparent and credible. But the exercise further made democracy a lame duck.

Votes were openly bought and sold, voters were ‘caged’ so that they must vote only the candidate that caged them, intimidation and bribing of election officials and so on, marred all the elections. Hence, democracy failed to prevail. Traditionally, President Biya reshuffles his Governments shortly after elections. After the holding of the Senatorial elections, it was expected that they would be a cabinet reshuffle but it never came to be.

Then came the twin elections; Parliamentary and Municipal elections of September 30. But no cabinet reshuffle came until the year ran out.  The impact of the suspense of the cabinet reshuffle is that it slows down work as Government Ministers are hesitant to take major decisions that they perceive might cost their being maintained in office, moved to another ministerial department or even dropped.

The year 2013 has come and gone, without President Biya’s announced Reunification celebrations in Buea. Every thing was put on hold waiting for the visit of the Head of State. People were anxious as work on the projects for the event accelerated, especially with Governor Okalia Bilai’s continuous assertion that Buea was ready for the event.

One of the greatest casualties of the wait is the University of Buea, UB. The varsity had to postpone its convocation which normally holds at the end of each year.  It could not hold, because, UB authorities did not want it to coincide with the visit of the Head of State. We were hinted that the convocation ceremony was originally slated for December 14.

But presuming that the Head of State would come around that date, the authorities of the university had to postpone it. The students had to go for Xmas without graduating. This has affected some of them who have gained scholarship abroad and were hoping to travel and enrol in schools this January or those who were waiting for their certificates to travel abroad and feign for themselves.

Up to this moment, no date has been fixed for the graduation ceremony. That means if the Head of State does not come in January, the convocation ceremony might be shifted to February. That also means if the Head of State does not come any time in January, the date for the other most important event in Buea, the Mountain Race, would also be affected. The race traditionally holds mid February.

Many reforms in the educational sector were envisaged for 2013. Despite the talk about professionalisation of education, not much is concretely being done on the ground.  While training institutions bemoan the fact that their products are not being employed, employers observe that the graduates are unemployable. But a forum of education promised for 2013, which would have resolved this educational reform problem, failed to hold.

Problems in the health sector remained preoccupying. Curable diseases still took away lives. All the efforts and resources of world bodies to fight malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, fail prey to corruption, brought about stock-outs resulting in fake drugs invading the market. The case of stock-outs in antiretroviral drugs was recurrent in 2013.

It was expected that, with the trial and sentencing of the top notch Government officials charged with the embezzlement of public funds in the first half of 2013, the Operation Sparrow Hawk, would swoop on the rest of Government Ministers that the Anti-Corruption Commission found wanting and arrest them, but it never came to pass, even with the putting in place of the Special Criminal Court.

The expectation that the Sparrow Hawk would finish with the big embezzlers of State funds at the top of government institutions and then come to regions and divisions lived through 2013, but remained a pipe dream. The clean sweep of the economic and financial criminals from top to bottom, accompanied by naming and shaming, which would have been a deterrent, was never applied. Misappropriation of public funds thus continued, only with the actors changing tactics.

NGOs and other civil society organisations had suggested that salaries of civil servants be increased, so that it would motivate the public workers to serve more efficiently and effectively. According to civil society organisations, the salary adjustments would go a long way to slow down galloping corruption.

But like in other years since the salary cuts of 1993 – 94, only the wages of armed forces are increased every year. It was hoped that with the poor rating of the Cameroon in the ‘doing business’ index, the Government would relax certain policies and laws and reduce the complicated documentation required to start a business in the country. But the situation remained the same and has earned the country another poor rating.   

With the talk of Cameroon emerging and the programme budget, prospects by economists were that the budget for this year would give its better chunk to investment. Yet, the budget allocated only a meagre 30 percent to investment and about 60 to consumption. Meantime, Cameroon continues to be a consumer economy than a producer economy.

First published in The Post print edition no 01493

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